On December 31, 2019, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which is currently ravaging the world, was first detected in Wuhan, China. However, a vaccine to combat the pandemic has been produced in less than a year.
International alliances helped make the feat feasible. To summarize, China approved the CanSino vaccine for limited military use on June 24, 2020, while Russia approved the Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use on August 11, 2020.
The Comirnaty COVID-19 mRNA vaccine was classified for emergency use by WHO in December 2020, making the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine the first to achieve WHO emergency validation since the outbreak began.
The United Kingdom became the first country in the world to approve this vaccine on December 31, 2020, and began distributing 800,000 doses.
The rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine is unquestionably owing to the global character of the disease and the significant mortality rate connected with it.
Meanwhile, no vaccine for a disease like malaria, an ancient disease that is wreaking devastation around the world, particularly in Africa, has been created.
Malaria holds a special place in the history books. The Neolithic Age people, the early Chinese and Greeks, royalty and the lowly have all been victims over the millennia.
Despite the fact that the sick are scattered over Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Amazon basin, records reveal that 40 percent of the world’s population still lives in malaria-infected areas.
Malaria, for example, is still the biggest cause of death in tropical climes, according to the WHO.
Malaria was responsible for around 218 million infections and 409,000 fatalities globally in 2019. Only in Sub-Saharan Africa did 94 percent of the cases occur, mostly among young infants.
Nigeria contributed 27 percent (58.8 million cases) to the burden of malaria, according to the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) prepared by the National Population Commission in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health. Malaria deaths account for 23% (88,320) of all deaths worldwide.
COVID-19 has been the subject of attention all across the world. Governments, philanthropists, private enterprises, organizations, industries, and scientists are all putting in a lot of effort and allocating a lot of money to fulfill the COVID-19 challenge.
Stakeholders emphasized that the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines demonstrates the strength of science when researchers have the resources.
They reasoned that this was due to the fact that malaria, which has been present in Sub-Saharan Africa for thousands of years and continues to cause significant social and economic losses, is not a worldwide epidemic.
Malaria vaccines are currently unavailable on the African continent, despite the fact that a promising new vaccine developed by the same team of scientists who developed the Oxford / AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is scheduled to be ready by 2024.
The WHO has declared China malaria-free, despite the lack of a vaccine, following 70 years of concerted efforts against the disease, which is thought to have impacted 30 million Chinese citizens in the 1940s.
It is the first time in more than three decades that a country from the WHO Western Pacific Region has received this honor. WHO malaria-free certification has been acquired by forty nations and territories throughout the world.
While malaria is preventable and treated, experts believe that due to the intricacy of the parasite that causes the sickness, scientists have been unable to develop a vaccine.
Nigerian health authorities have stated that the country has expertise who could manufacture the vaccines.
Professor Augustine Njoku-Obi, former president of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences, is said to have created a cholera vaccine that was authorized by the WHO in 1971.
They went on to say that Njoku-Obi also developed a malaria vaccine that had the potential to have a significant influence on public health but was never approved owing to a lack of financing. Political will is required.
However, Professor Oyewale Tomori, Chairman of BIOVACCINE Nigeria Limited (BVNL), stated that Njoku-Obi was a microbiologist/bacteriologist rather than a virologist, and that he worked on cholera and other bacterial agents.
“Unlike Professors Fabiyi and David-West, Professor Njoku-Obi was a distinguished bacteriologist / microbiologist.
“He was elected in 1977 as one of the founding members of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences and was president of the Academy between 1985 and 1986.
“The claim that the vaccine is WHO-approved is surrounded by national and international controversies; politically approved but scientifically no proof. ”
Professor of virology and former vice-chancellor of Redeemer’s University in Ede, Osun, Tomori, emphasized that malaria elimination is a realistic objective for all countries.
Nigeria, he said, must maintain its commitment and investment in the fight against malaria.
“China is the 40th country to be certified malaria-free. It took seven decades and culminated in the discovery of a new drug, artemisinin, which won its discoverer the Nobel Prize in 2015, and which is now one of the first-line therapies around the world.
“Three African countries – Mauritius-1973, Réunion-1979 and Algeria-2019 have been certified by WHO as malaria-free, two others, Lesotho and Seychelles, have never reported malaria.
“Europe had endemic malaria but got rid of it thanks to improved health measures. The last European country to be certified malaria-free was Uzbekistan in 2018. I think these measures are more than the drug responsible for their malaria-free status. Africa, despite the use of different drug therapies, is still endemic to malaria. ”
He acknowledged that producing a malaria vaccine was difficult.
“Malaria parasites such as Plasmodium falciparum, the leading cause of malaria infection, are known to be genetically complex, generating thousands of potential foreign chemicals in the body and triggering complex immune responses.
“Even more, exposure to malaria infection does not induce herd immunity, which makes it difficult to obtain a long-term vaccine.
“COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of strong health systems and assured social, economic and political stability. The pandemic is a reminder that health is not a reward for development but rather a prerequisite.
“After all, although COVID-19 and malaria are not comparable, the end results are often the same: when severe cases are not managed effectively, death is inevitable,” he said.
The burden of eradicating malaria, according to the virology expert, is greater than the contributions of governments and international donors.
To get rid of mosquitoes, which were the principal vectors of malaria, Tomori advocated three key approaches: vaccine research, environmental sanitation, and fumigation.
He went on to say that a malaria vaccine would only be a supplement to other initiatives aimed at entirely eradicating malaria from the country.
“We don’t fight malaria by buying mosquito nets / sprays, we attack the roots by repairing sanitation; clean the channels / gutters / drains / no pool of stagnant / dirty water.
“When the canals get blocked in our neighborhoods, we are faced with diseases related to environmental health and sanitation like malaria, cholera, dysentery and others.
“While we wait for the malaria vaccine to arrive, we can do more in the fight against malaria by improving sanitation.
“The indiscriminate disposal of waste in sewers and water channels allows mosquitoes to breed. “
Dr. Yinka Adekunle, a virologist, remarked that the country’s enormous geographical diversity of infectious diseases necessitated the use of many effective vaccination approaches and the seeking of assistance. partners in development
“It is only in Nigeria that we have yet to see a collaboration between biotech and pharmaceutical companies, to deliver a variety of vaccine approaches that will be essential for our country.
“We have no development path for an effective vaccine against an infectious disease.
“A nation as large as Nigeria has yet to produce a human vaccine; This is what all stakeholders should be concerned about.
“It took 70 years for a country like China to eradicate malaria because of its developmental trajectory, they got it right. “
She stated that the country requires unprecedented collaboration among industries, governments, lawmakers, religious leaders, and academia, with each contributing their own capabilities.
“With all this in place, we will not be at the mercy of COVAX or the African Union to vaccinate our more than 200 million people, we will rather help the world like what the Indian did before the pandemic. disturbs them.
“We have what it takes as a giant of Africa; let’s stop playing politics and always running to other countries to ask for help, ”she noted.
She went on to say that COVID-19’s quick research and development has shattered popular perceptions of vaccine research and development, as a five-year process was completed in less than a year.
She claims that it can still be duplicated for vaccines against malaria and other infectious diseases.
Adekunle urged the federal government to facilitate immediate engagement with the CBN, NEPZA, NIPC, NSIA, NIPRD, NAFDAC, and other identified stakeholders in order to speed up the delivery of BIOVACCINES Nigeria (BVNL), a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Nigerian government and May & Baker Nigeria.
“If we focus on this task, the facility can be delivered in a shorter timeframe and we can update vaccine production in Nigeria,” she explained.
Dr Solomon Chollom, a representative for the Plateau Interprofessional Health Committee on the Response to COVID-19, also spoke, saying that despite the flaws, defects, and controversies, COVID-19 vaccinations appear to be here to stay.
He did wonder, though, why vaccines for common diseases, particularly malaria, had not had the same level of success.